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Stop squinting

Antique Spectacles David Fleishman, M.D., a retired ophthalmologist, has compiled a rather extensive collection of information about spectacles and their importance in history. In addition to many examples of early spectacles and information about the spectacles worn by figures in history, there is a general history - Eyeglasses Through the Ages:[R]eading glasses are one of the most important inventions of the past 2000 years.... No one really knows about the early history of image magnification. In ancient times, someone noticed that convex-shaped glass magnified images. Sometime between the year 1000 and 1250 crude technology began to develop regarding reading stones (simple magnifiers). English Franciscan Friar Roger Bacon (1220 -1292), in his 1268 ‘Opus Majus’, noted that letters could be seen better and larger when viewed through less than half a sphere of glass. Bacon's experiments confirmed the principle of the convex (converging) lens, described by Alhazen (965-1038) Arabian mathematician, optician and astronomer at Cairo, and even earlier by the Greeks. (via the dead tree version of the WSJ)
posted by caddis on Apr 6, 2006 - 18 comments

The Goats of West Point

The Goats of West Point
”...though only about twenty years of age, had the appearance of being much older. He had a worn, weary, discontented look, not easily forgotten by those who were intimate with him.”
A new book tells the story of Sergeant Major Edgar Allan Poe, Battery H (.pdf), First Artillery Washout, West Point, Class of 1834. And of other famous cadets.
posted by matteo on Apr 6, 2006 - 6 comments

Yeah Shanghai!

Old photos of Shanghai from Virtual Shanghai is one of the best collections of old Shanghai photos (over 2000) I've found on the web, and it has a nice map collection too. Tales of Old Shanghai has a lot of great stuff, especially primary texts. Sinomania has a pretty eclectic collection of photos. Some of my favorites so far.
posted by banishedimmortal on Apr 3, 2006 - 7 comments

Maya Ruins

Maya Ruins - Nice images of Maya ruins in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, indexed to site plans. See for instance Uxmal: the Grand Pyramid, the House of the Doves, the Nunnery Quadrangle, and the Pyramid of the Magician. See also: the Meso-American Photo Archives.
posted by carter on Mar 29, 2006 - 17 comments

Gettysburg of the West

The Battle of Glorieta Pass is considered the turning point of the Civil War, in terms of the New Mexico Territory. It happened March 26-28th, 1862. Initially Charles L. Pyron and William Reed Scurry's Confederate force, based at Johnson's Ranch, thought that they had won the battle. They would soon learn that the Union troops, lead by John P. Slough, had circled and destroyed their supplies, leading to Scurry's retreat towards San Antonio. More detailed battle info: [1] [2]-Some site photos.
posted by rollbiz on Mar 27, 2006 - 27 comments

Wilshire Boulevard

Curating the City A Flash exhibition exploring the past and present urban landscape of Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles. A modest topic explored in depth - which is perhaps what makes it so fascinating. The site includes a pdf guidebook, in case you want to check out the bricks-and-mortar version.
posted by carter on Mar 27, 2006 - 8 comments

The History of Almost Everything

"The Movie Timeline is the history of everything, taken from one simple premise - that everything you see in the movies is true..." For example, "November 6, 2012: The United States elects a female president (Back To The Future Part II)" [via]
posted by feelinglistless on Mar 26, 2006 - 18 comments

The Digital Bridges Project

The Digital Bridges Project Digitized 19th century bridge engineering documents. Luckily for people like me, they've collected links to all the illustrations on one page. See for instance an amazing chronological series of pictures documenting the construction in 1892 of the 330 feet high, 3000 foot long, Pecos Viaduct in Texas.
posted by carter on Mar 25, 2006 - 6 comments

Apparently there is an uncanny valley in Japan, too.

The tradition of making Japanese dolls, called ningyo—meaning human figure—goes back as far as 10,000 years to clay figures made during the Jomon period. The more recent rise in popularity, though, is most often traced to Hina Matsuri--Girls' Day, or the Doll Festival, celebrated on March 3--originating during the Edo period. These antique ningyo are highly sought after by collectors, such as the American expert Alan Pate, who has written a number of articles on the subject. The modern Japanese doll culture, however, is anything but traditional. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the ningyo tradition was exported to make toys for the West (previously featured on MeFi), and has culminated in popular Barbie-type dolls such as Superdollfie and others. Contemporary artists have transformed the Japanese doll tradition into something else entirely: Simon Yotsuya, Ryo Yoshida, Koitsukihime, Yoko Ueno, Mario A., Etsuko Miura, and Kai Akemi. A number of these artists were featured in the Dolls of Innocence exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. Of course, notable artists outside Japan have worked with dolls before, including Hans Bellmer, who inspired much of the artwork in Innocence, the follow-up to Ghost in the Shell. Explore more: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]. [Several links are nsfw.]
posted by monju_bosatsu on Mar 24, 2006 - 11 comments

In your cups

A vessel to fill with mirth. Drinking vessels from days of yore, including Lord Byron's skull cup, a fuddling cup, a black jack (leather cup), a pot crown ( a precursor to the beer helmet?), and a whistle cup. The site contains lots of other wine history as well. Ah, but they didn't have lover's cups back then. (via Cynical-C)
posted by caddis on Mar 24, 2006 - 5 comments

Aces High

In 1938 the British Balloon Command was established to protect cities and key targets such as industrial areas, ports, landmarks and harbours.Barrage balloons or "Bulging Berthas" were inflatable shiny silver-painted balloons, made of rubber-coated fabric, and filled with hydrogen gas used prevent low level attacks by enemy aircraft. The balloons flew anywhere from 500 feet to 10,000 feet. The 15 gauge flying wire that tethered them could clip the wings off a plane. They were also used at sea and to cover invasions. They were also effective against the V-1 flying bomb and back in the late 80s, at least one general thought they could still be used to protect airfields.
posted by Smedleyman on Mar 24, 2006 - 16 comments

The Ted Kierscey Collection

The Narrow Gauge Circle hosts, among other fine features, the Ted Kierscey Collection -- page after page after page of historical photographs of Colorado's railroad and mining towns.
posted by Gator on Mar 23, 2006 - 7 comments

He has cavorted naked with Charlotte Rampling [this is VERY NSFW] and covered himself in caviar for Marc Jacobs, but Jürgen Teller thinks "fashion is a wank". Teller's first solo show in Paris is entitled "Nurnberg", it consists of a sequence of images (annoying Flash site, sorry) taken at the infamous Zeppelintribune parade ground, site of Nazi propaganda rallies, which was designed by Hitler's favourite builder, Albert Speer. Over several months, Teller (.pdf) has photographed the monument, the podium and the steep, ruthless steps, all of which have been left to decay. Or not. "It wasn't really maintained, but if there was a broken step, or a smashed wall, it would be mysteriously replaced with a new one." Teller's photographs show the delicate weeds, flowers and lichen [NSFW] that have grown up around the stone blocks. "In Germany, there is a saying about letting the grass grow over things, meaning that events will eventually be forgotten".
posted by matteo on Mar 22, 2006 - 19 comments

Feliz cumple, presidente.

"The make him into something he wasn't." Today, on the 200th anniversary of his birth, a national holiday, Mexico both honors and reconsiders Benito Juarez (Wikipedia: Eng/Span): "Mexico's Lincoln," the nation's first indigenous president, who served two terms in the 1860s and 1870s. The capital city's airport, a border city of 1.1M, universities, and streets and monuments in just about every town are named after Juarez, widely considered a national hero. Politicians left and right invoke his name, especially this year as Mexico prepares to elect a new president in July. For many in the Latin American left, he's a regional icon in the vein of Simon Bolivar and Ernesto "Che" Guevara; Havana unveiled a bust (Span) of him last year. He's held up as a defender of the poor and the indigenous and an opponent to free trade. Today, however, some historians say he was neither. For those who read Spanish, a leading Mexican (right-of-center) newspaper, El Universal, also touches on the topic in "Juarez, a controversial icon."
posted by donpedro on Mar 21, 2006 - 5 comments

"The drama of our times seems to have upstaged even you". "Not Booth".

America's First Superstar. He was the highest paid actor in the world, beloved by fans so passionate about his performances that a riot (23 people killed, more than a hundred wounded) ensued when a rival dared to perform the role that had made him famous. He enjoyed all the trappings of a superstar's life: portraits taken by America's most famous photographer, a large mansion (now a historic landmark), and of course a scandalous divorce trial (he lost). He was also one of the most prominent book collectors in the country. Edwin Forrest was born 200 years ago.
posted by matteo on Mar 21, 2006 - 19 comments

Echoes of the past.

Democratic presidential candidate rails against US imperialism. "The platform . . . condemns the experiment in imperialism as an inexcusable blunder, which has involved us in enormous expense, brought us weakness instead of strength, and laid our nation open to the charge of abandoning the fundamental principles of a republic."
A prominent American author who initially supported the conflict, changed his mind, calling it "a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater.” The US is “the kind of World Power . . . that a prairie-dog village is . . . it is the duty of our Government to stand sentinel, with solemn mien, and lifted nose, and curved paws, on top of our little World-Power mound.”
posted by insomnia_lj on Mar 20, 2006 - 25 comments

ARPAnet

Computer Networks: The Heralds of Resource Sharing (Google video) A fascinating 30 minute documentary about ARPAnet - the precursor to today's Internet. (Can you spot the real ubernerd mover and shaker at BBN? Hint: He wears no tie!) (via: all over the place)
posted by loquacious on Mar 19, 2006 - 30 comments

Countess Dracula

Elizabeth Báthory is hot. I'd do her. The thing is she holds the world record (according to GWR) for being the most prolific serial killer in history. Supposedly, she may have tortured and killed as many as 2000 young girls, which probably makes her bi or lesbian (not that there's anything wrong with that). Some say she is the real inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula.
posted by sluglicker on Mar 18, 2006 - 62 comments

Princess Caraboo

In April of 1817, a distraught, exotic, bizarre young lady wearing a black turban appeared in the village of Almondsbury, England. She spoke an unintelligible language, and mystified villagers brought her to see the local magistrate. Linguistic experts of the day were baffled: until a Portuguese sailor appeared, who claimed to be able to translate. He explained that she was kidnapped royalty from the island of Javasu. She called herself Princess Caraboo.
posted by Count Ziggurat on Mar 18, 2006 - 11 comments

Ben Franklin Slept Here

Jefferson has his Monticello; Washington, Mount Vernon. Now, Benjamin Franklin's only surviving residence, Number 36 Craven Street, London, opened its doors to the public. More inside.
posted by matteo on Mar 16, 2006 - 13 comments

The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich has some excellent online collections related to maritime history and technology, including telescopes, marine chronometers, sundials, and a whole lot more. Some stuff I've been looking at: John Harrison's chronometers (described in Dava Sobel's book Longitude), polyhedral sundials, and pocket globes.
posted by carter on Mar 15, 2006 - 4 comments

From Good Cheer to "Drive-By Smiling": A Social History of Cheerfulness

The history of emotions has yielded substantial studies on love, anger, fear, grief, jealousy, and many other discrete emotions. However, there is no particular study of cheerfulness, a rather moderate emotion, which, for reasons that I will discuss further, has remained unnoticeable to the scholarly eye. Based on much of the historical literature on emotions, some primary sources and some other areas of cultural history, I outline here the social use and conceptualization of cheerfulness over the last three centuries. I argue that, in the modern age, cheerfulness rose in value and became the most favored emotion for experience and display; as such, it was individually sought and socially encouraged until it became the main emotional norm of twentieth-century America.
From Good Cheer to "Drive-By Smiling": A Social History of Cheerfulness
And the Taxonomy of Emotion Terms there is of interest on its own.
posted by y2karl on Mar 13, 2006 - 10 comments

"It hit the public like a hurricane, like some uncontrolled primeval force".

The Riot of Spring. Théâtre Champs-Elysées, Paris, May 29, 1913. Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Marcel Proust, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy are among those present at the premiere of The Rite of Spring (the score is here), written by Igor Stravinsky and choreographed by the great Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. The music and the choreography shocked the audience with its daring modernism, ripping up the rulebook of classical ballet with its heavy, savage movements. Many in the audience promptly booed, then yelled, insulting the performers and each other. Then fistfights broke out. The police was summoned, but was unable to stop an all-out riot.
Now the BBC has made a TV movie about that night. More inside.
posted by matteo on Mar 11, 2006 - 27 comments

“Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution” -- an online exhibit

“Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution” -- an online exhibit
posted by matteo on Mar 7, 2006 - 10 comments

Family Values

Why aren't western marriages arranged? So the Church could make more money. (via fark)
posted by jeffburdges on Mar 6, 2006 - 19 comments

Happy Independence Day

Today is Texas Independence Day On March 2, 1836, the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed at Washington-on-the-Brazos. The document was created by the Convention of 1836 while almost a couple hundred brave Texans at the Alamo held Gen. Santa Anna's army of several thousand at bay for 13 days. On March 6, the Alamo finally fell, slaughtered to the last man. On March 27, 352 Texas soliders were slaughtered at the Goliad Massacre. Finally on April 21, the untrained armies of Texas, outnumbered and under the command of Sam Houston, decisively defeated the much larger and better trained and equipped Army of Mexico at the Battle of San Jacinto and captured the Mexican dictator Santa Anna. Happy Texas Independence Day.
posted by dios on Mar 2, 2006 - 89 comments

History

THE SAINTLY SINNER. “Maudlin,” a derivative of Magdalene, in the English language, with the meaning of “mawkishly lachrymose.”
posted by semmi on Mar 1, 2006 - 10 comments

what you need right now isn't the righteous anger the rest of the blogosphere will give you. You need more.

For the women of South Dakota: an abortion manual --building on the history and expertise of Jane, , an underground referral and abortion-providing group in Chicago in the 60s, Molly provides the vital info women in South Dakota (and maybe elsewhere soon) need.
posted by amberglow on Feb 26, 2006 - 133 comments

Rephotographing Atget

Rephotographing Atget: Eugene Atget photographed Paris from 1888 until his death in 1927. Christopher Rauschenberg retraced Atget's steps in 1997 and 1998, photographing the same scenes, and documents his project in a gallery at Lens Culture. The gallery includes an audio discussion of the project. [more inside]
posted by monju_bosatsu on Feb 24, 2006 - 19 comments

Dance History Archives

I'm no dancer, but I'm fascinated by the Dance History Archives. The index of dance styles is comprehensive, and the individual entries provide everything from history to related music links. (Jitterbug, May Pole, The Watusi) There's a short glossary, an index of dancers, a voluptuous section on burlesque (including some great NSFW pictures), an archive of posters (Josephine Baker!), and so much more. The list of Dancer Related Celebrities is pretty extensive (Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth), although there's no Jennifer Grey, so I guess Baby got put in a corner after all.
posted by OmieWise on Feb 24, 2006 - 17 comments

Forty Acres and a Mule

Twilight for Black Farms. An interesting topic at NPR. Photos. Audio. Essay.
posted by dgaicun on Feb 24, 2006 - 6 comments

In the year 8113

An ambitious time capsule. In the basement of Phoebe Hearst Hall at Oglethorpe University in Georgia, there is a stainless steel vault door which was welded shut over sixty five years ago. Behind this door lies a 20' x 10' waterproofed room containing a menagerie of once-modern artifacts and microfilm records, placed there by men and women in the years between 1937 and 1940. If their goal is realized, the contents of this vault will remain unseen and undisturbed for the next 6,107 years. Official site, pictures, and inventory. (link lovingly pilfered from another filter)
posted by caddis on Feb 23, 2006 - 42 comments

Gimli Glider: How to glide a 767

The impressive Gimli Glider. Yes, seriously: it can be a glider. An amazing story of a commercial pilot with mad emergency landing skillz.
posted by five fresh fish on Feb 21, 2006 - 42 comments

The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft

The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft: A searchable database of people accused of witchcraft in Scotland between 1563 and 1736. Currently, 3,837 people have been identified, 3,212 by name. 113 cases involved fairies, 74 had a known political or property motive, 70 involved some aspect of "white magic". This is the real, and utterly fascinating, history of a hysteria that griped a country and a continent for more than a century. Religion, folk belief, fear and local relations all played out in witchhunts - and we still do not really understand why, why they started or why they ended. Projects like this one are invaluable to help us begin. (Co-developed by mefite Flitcraft)
posted by jb on Feb 20, 2006 - 17 comments

The Memory of The Netherlands

The Memory of The Netherlands is an extensive digital collection of illustrations, photographs, texts, film and audio fragments from a large variety of Dutch cultural institutions. There are about 50 collections (in english).
posted by peacay on Feb 19, 2006 - 7 comments

Creative Americans: Portraits by Carl Van Vechten 1932-1964

Creative Americans: The Carl Van Vechten Photographs Collection at the Library of Congress consists of 1,395 photographs taken by American photographer Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) between 1932 and 1964. The bulk of the collection consists of portrait photographs of celebrities, including many figures from the Harlem Renaissance. Portraits include those of Tallulah Bankhead, Salvador Dali, Truman Capote, Dizzy Gillespie, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eartha Kitt, and Joe Louis. They are all available in medium or high resolution JPEG’s or uncompressed archival TIFF versions.
posted by ND¢ on Feb 17, 2006 - 10 comments

From the Diary of Adam Czerniakow on the Eve of the Deportation from the Warsaw Ghetto, 1942

"They are demanding that I kill the children of my people with my own hands"
On October 4, 1939, a few days after Warsaw's surrender to the Nazis, Adam Czerniaków was made head of the 24 member Judenrat, the Jewish Council (write "Czerniakow" in the linked page's search box) responsible for implementing German orders in the Jewish community (interactive map of the Warsaw ghetto). On July 22, 1942 -- Tisha B'Av, the "saddest day in Jewish history" -- the Judenrat received instructions that all Warsaw Jews were to be deported to the East (exceptions were to be made for Jews working in German factories, Jewish hospital staff, members of the Judenrat and their families, and members of the Jewish police force and their families. Czerniaków tried to convince the Germans at least not to deport the Jewish orphans). Czerniaków kept a diary from September 6, 1939, until the day of his death. It was published in 1979 in the English language as the "The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniaków: Prelude to Doom", edited by one of the most prominent Holocaust scholars, Raul Hilberg. More inside.
posted by matteo on Feb 17, 2006 - 23 comments

extrapolation and beyond

The Wiki History of the Universe in 200 Words or Less [via]
posted by moonbird on Feb 17, 2006 - 14 comments

Linus Anecdotes

"Oops. Now his master boot record started with 'ATDT' and the university modem pool phone number. I think he implemented permission checking the following day." Linus Torvald's former officemate shares his lighthearted recollections about the creation — and creator — of Linux.
posted by nakedcodemonkey on Feb 16, 2006 - 7 comments

The Forgotten War?

"The Korean Saving Private Ryan," or Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004). Reviews. Plot synopsis (spoilers). Box Office: Over 20% of South Korea saw this film.
posted by bardic on Feb 16, 2006 - 34 comments

Irie Takako: Establishing Oneself and Entering the World

In the Twilight of Modernity and the Silent Film (.pdf) Irie Takako was the most popular actress in 1930s Japan: film scholar Tanaka Masasumi locates the turning point of Japanese modernity in 1933, the year Kenji Mizoguchi's The Water Magician was made, arguing that Irie's transformation from radiant embodiment of moga(modern girl, the Japanese version of the flapper)-hood to suffering beauty in a kimono (.pdf) epitomized modernism's (modanizumu) defeat by nationalism in 1930's Japan. (via Camera Obscura; more inside)
posted by matteo on Feb 15, 2006 - 5 comments

Brownlow's and Mollo's Nazi Britain

"The German invasion of Britain took place in July 1940, after the British retreat from Dunkirk". We see, documentary-style, members of the Wehrmacht trooping past Big Ben and St Paul's Cathedral, lounging in the parks, having their jackboots shined by old cockneys, and appreciatively visiting the shrine of that good German, Prince Albert, in Kensington Gardens. Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo's film "It Happened Here", with its cast of hundreds (.pdf), imagines what a Nazi occupation might have been like — complete with underground resistance, civilian massacres, civil strife, torch-lit rallies, Jewish ghettos, and organized euthanasia. Shot on weekends, eight years in production, made for about $20,000 with nonactors and borrowed equipment and Stanley Kubrick's help, "It Happened Here" was originally envisioned by Brownlow as a sort of Hammer horror flick about a Nazi Britain. Thanks in part to Mollo's fanatical concern with historical accuracy, however, it became something else. The most remarkable thing about this account of everyday fascism is that it has no period footage. Brownlow's 1968 book about the film's production, "How It Happened Here", has recently been republished. More inside.
posted by matteo on Feb 12, 2006 - 16 comments

O Recondo Distractum

Recondo! In 1966, the MACV Recondo School was established to train Special Forces Units in long-range recon tactics and commando operations. Graduates were called "Recondos" and could infiltrate enemy-controlled territory for long periods of time without being resupplied. The school was well known enough to spawn a cheezy GI Joe character. Apparently you can easily infiltrate Hollywood as well with allegedly false Recondo credentials.
posted by Smedleyman on Feb 9, 2006 - 12 comments

Jean-Luc Godard's 'Histoire(s) du Cinéma'

The Man With The Magnétoscope.
"How marvelous to be able to look at what you cannot see... cinema, like Christianity, is not founded on historical truth. It supplies us with a story and says: Believe — believe come what may."
Jean Luc Godard's 'Histoire(s) du Cinéma' at UCLA.
posted by matteo on Feb 7, 2006 - 8 comments

Alas, a self-godwining thread

H1t3r pwnd UK, USA! A gunnery has been discovered, buried beneath a metre of iron-rich Normandy soil. It was likely part of a ruse on the part of the Axis forces: a fake gunnery was also built, less conspicuously, and it took the abuse. It was forgotten -- or the memory at least buried by the locals and those who fought there -- until recently. Now it appears to explain some puzzles about Bloody Omaha [pic].
posted by five fresh fish on Feb 7, 2006 - 49 comments

Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing

Motown history traded for Super Bowl parking. (mostly audio) The Motown Center in Detroit was torn down a few weeks ago and turned into Super Bowl parking. Although not the main recording studios, and long abandoned, it still contained many Motown documents and memorabilia, most of which were lost in the razing. Covered by local bloggers: dETROITfUNK (1, 2) , Detroit Blog (1, 2, 3, 4), and Kempa, plus local tv.
posted by caddis on Feb 6, 2006 - 45 comments

Wake Nicodemus

NIcodemus, Kansas is the only remaining western community established by African Americans after the Civil War. The promise of freedom and land in the state of John Brown. Though prosperous in the 1880's, it began to fade. Its post office closed in 1953. It is now home to only 27 residents, with an average age of 80, but the "Promise Land" has hope. Wake Nicodemus, wake.
posted by ozomatli on Feb 6, 2006 - 23 comments

Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine

Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine (1896) (some images NSFW).
posted by feathermeat on Feb 5, 2006 - 13 comments

first photographs from israel

A photographic tour of the Holy Land 1831-1910
posted by dhruva on Feb 4, 2006 - 8 comments

Higgins, The House Painter

In the year 2525 if man is still alive, future generations will be able to consult this book or type a request into their DIY UNIT™ and reproduce the effect of wood or marble.
posted by tellurian on Feb 2, 2006 - 18 comments

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